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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Watch One Man Build a Motorcycle in Three Days

Posted By on Wed, Aug 3, 2011 at 10:30 AM

  • Hammarhead Industries

James Loughead is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. But he's no stuffy, bookish professor -- he's the founder and CEO of Hammarhead Industries, a company that makes custom-built motorcycles, and he'll be in town starting Thursday to assemble a bike in the space of three days at a retail location in the Dogpatch neighborhood.

"I was born and raised in a time when people rode dirt bikes, before suburban living closed in on you," Loughead tells SF Weekly.

After getting his Ph.D. in neuropsychology, he decided to develop his passion for motorcycles by designing a bike that filled the gaps in the mainstream market.

The result was the Jack Pine, a narrow, minimalist bike based on a Triumph Scrambler. It was originally designed for offroad use but is versatile enough for urban riding.

"It's a universal bike: it does everything well," Loughead says.

It's a weird hybrid. It looks like a Triumph Bonneville that's been modified to function as a straight-up motocross bike. It bears little resemblance to dual-sport models such as BMW's GS series or Suzuki's V-Strom. This looks more like a bike you'd use to play in the hills rather than take the Long Way Round (like Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman).

Loughhead and his team build each bike from scratch, manufacturing or modifying parts stripped from other bikes. It takes about nine months from start to finish.

He has all the parts, but nothing has been assembled yet. He will be cutting the frame and fenders on site. The final assembly usually takes a week, but Loughead is confident that he can complete the process in a mere three days.

"It's totally doable," he says. "I think it's going to be challenging seeing what problems come up. People will see the most fun, intense part when all the elements come together."

Loughead will assemble the bike at Triple Aught Design, a retail store that designs outdoor apparel and equipment. TAD representative Michael Weiss tells SF Weekly that both companies have a similar mindset.

"It's a coming together of like minds," he says. "We both apply a modern twist to classic designs, and we both appreciate great and beautiful design."

James Loughead
  • James Loughead

Weiss is enthusiastic about offering Bay Area bike enthusiasts an opportunity to see the process of bike assembly up close.

"We're not going to be putting them behind a rope. You're going to get to see how the build process works and also engage with and talk to these guys," he says.

Loughead says his company took off unexpectedly. "I thought I'd build three to five bikes a year, but this year I've ended up building 23 bikes," he says.

As Hammarhead grew, Loughead started to receive orders from California. He likes to ride finished bikes to his clients on the East Coast, but that's not feasible for his West Coast clients. So this summer, he decided to ride a number of bikes out to customers in California, hosting events on the way.

The bike tour ends in San Francisco. For the final event, Loughead will assemble this Jack Pine for a customer in Southern California.

Given the short span of time Loughead has to assemble the bike, spectators will not have the opportunity to get their hands greasy. Still, it promises to be an exciting showcase of workmanship. We just wish our college professors were all this cool.

Build dates are Thursday, Aug. 4, through Saturday, Aug. 6, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Triple Aught Design, 660 22nd St. (at Third St.)

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Caroline Chen


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